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Exercise Tips from Instagrammers With Diabetes

By Sara Angle , ,

Matt Vande Vegte
Photograph by Sarah Mireya

What’s the secret to exercising with diabetes? That’s the question we asked six people who do it and Instagram it. Read on for their top tips.

Safety Note: Check with your health care provider before starting or changing your exercise plan.

Gretchen Otte

Gretchen Otte


Age: 27
Diabetes: Type 1
Instagram: @typeonetypehappy
Job: Founder of the blog Type One Type Happy
Hometown: Newport Beach, California

Tip No. 1: “Running has always been my therapy and alone time. After being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to go out on a run by myself. I started out by running one mile and checking my blood sugars before, during, and after my run to see what my blood sugars were doing. Then, with each run I went on, I would build up by adding an additional mile and checking after each mile. Now I understand my sugars and when I need to stop to avoid any serious situations.”

Tip No. 2: “I first learned to manage my diabetes during my workouts by taking it step by step and experimenting with different types of exercises. When I’m trying a new workout and am unsure of how it will affect me, I make sure to test more often than usual. That way I can know exactly how I feel and what I need to do.”

Tip No. 3: “Having a set workout time will help you manage your blood sugars in preparation for the workout. Nothing is worse than spontaneously wanting to go work out, but then you realize you forgot your low blood glucose snacks! Pick the time that works best for your schedule, whether that means before work, on your lunch break, or in the evening. You’ll be more likely to stick with it if it’s convenient for you.”

Zach Dresler

Zach Dresler
Photograph by Anika Warden

Age: 36
Diabetes: Type 2
Instagram: @thefit_z
Job: Video producer for BuzzFeed
Hometown: Los Angeles

Tip No. 1: “To keep from getting bored with my workouts, I signed up for ClassPass, a [national] service that lets you book group fitness classes at different studios for one monthly price. I go to high-intensity interval training classes and boxing classes. I’ve even tried aerial skills and barre workouts. Changing things up keeps fitness exciting.”

Tip No. 2: “To motivate yourself to start an exercise routine, think about what you’re missing out on. Are there things you used to enjoy doing that you can’t do anymore?"

Tip No. 3: “I worked with a trainer for eight weeks to jump-start my fitness. By week three, I was learning all new things I had never done before and was exercising more independently. After those eight weeks, I felt more confident to go out and do the same exercises on my own, without a trainer. I even used YouTube to learn new movements I could take with me to the gym.”


Lauren Bongiorno

Lauren Bongiorno
Photograph by Deandre Joseph

Age: 25
Diabetes: Type 1
Instagram: @lauren_bongiorno
Job: Certified health coach and yoga teacher
Hometown: New York City

Tip No. 1: “Before I set any kind of goal, I always reflect on what has kept me from reaching it in the past. It could be poor time management, lack of external support or accountability, or not believing in myself. Find what has prevented you from sticking to an exercise routine and then look for a solution to overcoming that hurdle. Maybe that means getting up a half hour earlier, enlisting a friend to work out with you, or choosing a mantra that inspires you.”

Tip No. 2: “List your workout trends. Record the time, workout, starting and ending blood sugars, and any notes on active insulin or food surrounding the workout. Then refine your method each time you work out.” 

Tip No. 3: “A lot of my long-formed habits, like eating as a form of stress reduction, thinking that I’m not good enough because I have an autoimmune disease, or overworking myself, all negatively impact my diabetes management. Yoga helps me to move past those bad habits because it teaches me how to be more compassionate toward myself and more self-aware. To move past negative, ask yourself what your day would be like if you chose to be kind to yourself and not judge yourself.”


Matt Vande Vegte

Matt Vande Vegte
Photograph by Sarah Mireya

Age: 27
Diabetes: Type 1
Instagram: @ftfwarrior
Job: Certified personal trainer and cofounder of FTF Warrior, a health coaching service for people with diabetes
Hometown: San Diego

Tip No. 1: “While erratic exercise schedules can correlate to erratic blood sugars, a consistent workout schedule can provide a pattern that your body loves. On days when I skip my workout, my blood sugars run higher, and I kick myself in the pants for not going. Reminding myself that exercise helps me maintain better insulin sensitivity is an excellent motivator to get my butt to the gym, even on days when I don’t feel like it.”

Tip No. 2: “You can go from feeling great to downing juice on the gym floor if you aren’t careful. So I make it a ruleto wait a minimum of two hours after injecting insulin before I work out.”

Tip No. 3: “Sometimes you still drop after taking all the right precautions. Because of that, I keep a juice box in my gym back for quick and easy access just in case I need a little blood sugar bump.”


Jay T. Maryniak

Jay T. Maryniak

Age: 31
Hometown: Mt. Kisco, New York
Diabetes: Type 1
Instagram: @jtm_fit
Job: Certified personal trainer and founder of The Functional Method, an eight-week full body training program.
Hometown: Mt. Kisco, New York

Tip No. 1: “You don’t have to adopt some super-intense fitness regimen to get results. Even 10 minutes on most days of the week can be beneficial. One of the best ways to get a quick and effective workout in is to do Tabata interval training: Do 20 seconds of an exercise, rest for 10 seconds, and repeat for a total of eight cycles. You can pick one exercise for all eight cycles or use eight different exercises for an awesome workout in just four minutes.”

Tip No. 2: “I like to eat something before I work out to try and sustain my sugar level as long as possible. A banana or granola bar of some sort are my go-tos.”

Tip No. 3: “For longer sessions, I’ll check my sugar levels every 30 minutes or so, based on how I’m feeling, and especially after an hour of training, when they start to drop more rapidly. If I’m feeling really lethargic and I’m not sure if it’s from the workout or if I’m going low, then I check immediately.”

Mandy Marquardt

Mandy Marquardt

Age: 26
Hometown: Allentown, Pennsylvania
Diabetes: Type 1
Instagram: @mandymarquardt
Job: Track cyclist with the USA Cycling National Team and Team Novo Nordisk
Hometown: Allentown, Pennsylvania

Tip No. 1: “I test my blood sugar often during training and always have injections and quick and easily digestible snacks with me in case I have a high or low blood sugar. But if I need a 5-minute break or more recovery, I’ll take the time I need to feel better after a blood sugar issue. Sometimes when you’re training, you might have to step back and remember that your health comes first. Being aware of that on your own will make you able to perform better in the long run.”

Tip No. 2: “It’s important to keep your core temperature cool and continue hydrating. I cut off one leg of a pair of pantyhose, fill it up with ice cubes, and tie the other side, making it long enough to hang around my neck.”

Tip No. 3: “Every person with diabetes is different, so recording your training routines can help you understand how certain foods or types of training effect you. Having a log can also help your endocrinologist or nutritionist know your body and suggest adjustments. My coach writes my workouts for me in the TraingPeaks app, where I can easily access it and upload my training notes. I share this with my physiologist and nutritionist. I also use a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), so the app makes it easy for me to log my carbs, insulin, exercise, and health. There are so many resources out there today, from apps to notebooks to online resources, you just have to find what works best for you.”






 

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